Date: Thurs 7 Jan 2010
UNISON Letter to Holyrood Magazine in response to interview with Stephen House in 7 December edition (http://www.holyrood.com/component/content/article/11-news-main/3186-strong-support-for-radical-policing-reform)
The apparent willingness of the Chief Constable of Strathclyde Police "to challenge the prevailing orthodoxy" over shared services doesn't appear to extend to his old-fashioned approach to policing.
The inevitable consequence of his 'police officers last' policy is a return to 1970's policing, when police officers filled in forms and answered telephones rather than patrolling the streets.
The greater use of police staffs in recent years is not just about cost. It also enables specialist skills that do not feature in generic police officer training to be deployed and ensures that officers are available where the public wants them - fighting crime in our communities.
At a time of budget cuts effective deployment of staff is even more important. A report commissioned by UNISON shows that Scotland is someway behind police forces south of the border in adopting civilianisation. In England, police staffs make up on average 39% of the force, in Scotland the figure is only 28%. This disparity cannot be explained by any structural difference in Scotland - some forces here already exceed the English average for equivalent posts.
In fact, Strathclyde Police is the poorest performer in Scotland at only 25% and that may in part explain their current budget crisis. In fairness to Stephen House this performance pre-dates his tenure, but his approach will make the position much worse.
The approaches described by Stephen House in Holyrood, and in his evidence to the Justice Committee, reflect a very old-fashioned view of the deployment of police staffs.
Those offering 'challenging and radical ideas' should be willing to apply them to their own profession, not just to other parts of the public service.